Cam­paigns are for some­body else

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Padma Ed­i­tor

Six years ago, a day af­ter Di­wali, the coun­try’s me­dia had car­ried ma­jor news items in bold types about es­ca­la­tion in air and sound pollution lev­els in Delhi due to ex­ces­sive cracker burst­ing by Del­hi­ites. Six years later, I find no dif­fer­ence in the news con­tent. Apart from the mar­ginal dif­fer­ence in per­cent­age terms in dif­fer­ent ar­eas, the news are all the same, mock­ing the ef­forts of the Delhi govern­ment, non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions as well as the con­scious cit­i­zenry who have been ad­vo­cat­ing for a green and qui­eter Di­wali.

Like each year, this time too there were ral­lies by school chil­dren; posters could be seen all over; so­cial me­dia was full of emo­tional, in­flu­enc­ing mes­sages; and celebri­ties were talk­ing about it on ra­dio and TV. It did ap­pear that this year Delhi would be dif­fer­ent – greener, qui­eter and cleaner – on Di­wali.

Noth­ing of that sort hap­pened. We all woke up to dense smog full of chok­ing toxic gasses. (Some die-hard op­ti­mists wel­comed it as the on­set of win­ter, so dense was the fog—sorry, smog.)

One now won­ders why so much of time, money and re­sources that are be­ing spent on ‘aware­ness’ are not work­ing? Why is this sim­ple mes­sage of ‘no crack­ers, please’ not mak­ing any im­pact on the ma­jor­ity of us? Crack­ers or fire­works are cer­tainly not a part of any re­li­gious rit­ual, nor do they have any cul­tural con­no­ta­tion. Then why are they so important? What I com­pletely fail to un­der­stand is the sig­nif­i­cance of these boom­ing bombs (that’s what they are la­belled as – bullet bomb, atom bomb, hy­dro­gen bomb, agni mis­sile...). Do they re­ally give plea­sure? Do they en­ter­tain the hu­man mind? Are there minds out there that get a kick out of the house-shat­ter­ing sounds of a bomb?

As per Delhi-fo­cused sta­tis­tics, al­most ev­ery child is in school. An­other claim of the govern­ment was that ev­ery school had been sen­si­tised in the run-up to Di­wali and that chil­dren were told to avoid crack­ers. What hap­pened then? Were the chil­dren re­belling?

Are Del­hi­ites re­belling? Or is it that they have gone numb and do not care any­more? One would have liked to think that the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion is com­par­a­tively aware. So why the gap be­tween knowl­edge and prac­tice? Do they have big­ger, larger and more ‘per­sonal’ prob­lems to deal with and hence do not care about these ‘hyped’ pollution and en­vi­ron­ment con­cerns? Per­haps Di­wali is when they can (un­con­sciously) vent their (un­known) frus­tra­tions by burst­ing crack­ers, by cre­at­ing deaf­en­ing noises and chok­ing smoke. Maybe they find some peace—their nir­vana, or what­ever—in that space.

How­ever, their hap­pi­ness comes at the cost of the health of the city and the mil­lions of its residents. Hence, it needs to be stopped – their reck­less­ness, not their hap­pi­ness. If the mil­lions spent on aware­ness cam­paigns are not work­ing, then the mil­lions com­ing from the sales rev­enue of crack­ers should be for­got­ten as they are ham­per­ing the mil­lions be­ing in­vested in mak­ing Delhi greener. In straight words, the sale, pur­chase and light­ing of crack­ers should be banned. Will there be protests? Maybe yes. Maybe the traders’ com­mu­nity will raise a voice, but they can­not be al­lowed to do busi­ness that com­pro­mises the ‘green norms’. Hence, all that Delhi needs now is the ‘will’ to ban.

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